The PROTON R3 Rally Team will return to the scene of its strongest outing to date: the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Rally of Scotland, next week.

In preparation for the Perth-based event, PROTON drivers Alister McRae and Keith Cronin will conduct a day-long test in Scotland on Tuesday. With further development testing completed in Wales this week, Alister and Keith will focus their attentions on completing the vital final set-up work on their cars. The pre-event test is even more important than usual, in the absence of a shakedown stage. And it’s double important for Keith, given that the double British Rally Champion has never driven the Satria Neo S2000 on gravel previously.

Alister guided the factory PROTON to second place on last November’s event, reckoned by many to be among the wettest rallies on record. This time around, the forecast is for brighter weather, which should ensure the Perthshire and Stirlingshire roads offer more grip.

The event’s service park has moved from the centre of Stirling to Perth Airport, but on Sunday it’s the town of Aberfeldy which plays host to a 15-minute stop between the two loops of tests.

The ceremonial start venue, one of the most historic of the season, remains at Scone Palace, the place where Scottish kings were once crowned. And, of course, a one-time resting place for the Stone of Destiny, which was used in the coronation process.

Not only does the event start at Scone, it will also play host to the first two stages of the event, a tricky 3.37-kilometre dash around the beautiful Palace.

As on last year’s event, Eurosport will be broadcasting television pictures of PROTON live from the Errochty stage on Saturday and Loch Ard, which provides the finale to the rally, on Sunday.

Having started at a venue steeped in history, the rally ends at an equally famous place on Sunday, with the Stirling Castle set as the perfect backdrop to bring what will have been a memorable, entertaining and competitive round of the IRC to a close for the PROTON R3 Rally Team.

Alister McRae said:
“It’s always nice to compete at home, particularly coming back to Perth after such a strong result last season. The car has definitely improved through the year, with the work on the engine and dampers paying dividends with the Satria. I know I’m biased, but some of the stages on this event are absolutely fantastic and among the best in the world. The Loch Ard stage on Sunday was new for us all last year and it was great, a real flowing driver’s stage; I’m certainly looking forward to getting back into there again. Seeing the Saltire at the side of the road always gives you a big boost on your home event and this rally has good memories for me: it was my first IRC round for the PROTON team and PROTON’s best result of the season.”

Keith Cronin said:
“Having driven this car on the asphalt in the Czech Republic, I absolutely can’t wait to get into it on the gravel. I did this event last year, but beyond the pace notes I made, I didn’t really get far enough into the event to get much experience. It’s good to have a team-mate like Alister, I think he’ll probably have a good idea of what’s going on up here. In one way I’m starting again driving this car for the first time on gravel, but in another way I’m a step ahead from Barum Rally already, I’m more familiar with the car and with what’s going on inside the cockpit, just a bit more familiar with the workings of the machine. My approach will be the same as Barum, I’ll start out quite steady and see how we go. At the end of the event, I’d like to think we’re going to be aiming for a top-five result, but there’s a lot of strong competition out there.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The car has moved on so much from where we were on this event last year, it’s really exciting to be going back to Scotland again, and we’re going back to try and improve on the result we achieved with Alister last season. The damper test earlier this week went really well. We’ve been able to take the car forward again in that area, which translates to more traction and stability. Everybody in the team is really up for this one, obviously we have good memories of last year and we’re all looking forward to going back. We’ve got two good drivers and we’re after the right result. We’ve got Tom [Cave] out with the PROTON as well, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on. Obviously, the other thing we’re hoping for is some better weather than last year, when it absolutely poured with rain. This doesn’t bother the drivers really, it’s equal for all of them, but a bit of sunshine makes for a better event for the fans and the marshals.”

Event data:
Round: 11/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Perth, Scotland
Stages: 12
Liaison distance: 617.09km
Competitive distance: 196.92km
Total distance: 814.01km
Pre-event press conference: Media centre (Friday October 15, 1600)
Post-event press conference: Media centre (Sunday October 17, 1800) 
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